Marvin Gaye Chetwynd

Art , Painting Free
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1/6
Exhibition view

© the artist, courtesy Sadie Coles HQ, London. Photo: Todd-White Art Photography

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Exhibition view

© the artist, courtesy Sadie Coles HQ, London. Photo: Todd-White Art Photography

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Exhibition view

© the artist, courtesy Sadie Coles HQ, London. Photo: Todd-White Art Photography

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Exhibition view

© the artist, courtesy Sadie Coles HQ, London. Photo: Todd-White Art Photography

5/6
Exhibition view

© the artist, courtesy Sadie Coles HQ, London. Photo: Todd-White Art Photography

6/6
Exhibition view

© the artist, courtesy Sadie Coles HQ, London. Photo: Todd-White Art Photography

Like Snoop Dogg, the artist formerly known as Spartacus Chetwynd seems restless when it comes to her given name. It’s hard to imagine, however, that many urban music types would bother reimagining Chaucer’s ‘Canterbury Tales’ (R Kelly might, I suppose), which is what the bulk of this new show is devoted to. The exuberant splodgy colourfulness of her performance works like ‘A Tax Haven Run by Women’ (2010) is largely absent here. Instead, Marvin Gaye comes on like a Year 5 Hannah Höch, chucking black-and-white photocopies about with happy abandon, and blowing them up to duvet-cover size. Poor Sadie Coles must have a terrible time doing her hoovering, because the sheets covering the floor are getting all rucked up and footprinty.

Despite all the photographic imagery, the effect is suitably medieval: eyes bulge and mouths gape; men and animals are mixed together; peasants become princes, who are then cast back down into the mire through their own venality. There’s a huge bum to greet you on the wall facing the door, plus carvings and manuscript illuminations from the Middle Ages thrown in for good measure. Bits of Chaucer’s text emerge here and there, and a hutchlike structure seems to invite you to do a bit of colouring in, perhaps a nod to Chetwynd’s more theatrical interventions. We’re always being told how bawdy and brilliant Chaucer is, even though no one ever reads him, but Chetwynd’s apparently throwaway approach does a fine job of suggesting this might actually be the case.

In the downstair space Marvin gets it on in a spot of nocturnal activity. Specifically, a series of small, dingy oil paintings from her ‘Bat Opera’ series. After the riotous Chaucer illustrations, they seem even more meek than they would do elsewhere, which feels like a funny dramatic flourish in its own right.

Chris Waywell

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